In Times of Trouble, the Opportunists Win / Luis Felipe Rojas

Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina is my friend, and because he refused to leave Cuba a few months ago he has been condemned to suffer various unsuspected dangers which constantly lurk around him. A few days ago I received this letter written by him and I wish to share it with my readers.

—Rolando’s Letter—

Lately, I have been thinking about the journey my brother Nestor and I embarked upon against the Castro dictatorship. We both carried out numerous civic demonstrations against totalitarianism here in Cuba. The last demonstration we both participated in was the campaign dubbed “What are Human Rights?”, which was held in accordance with International Human Rights Day celebrated on December 10th 2010. But the day before, my brother was taken to prison as part of a political police strategy to force him to leave the country as finally did occur on April 7th 2011.

Thinking back on that event I also recall that on that December day Eriberto Liranza Romero (who had already substituted my brother Nestor as president of the Cuban Youth for Democracy Movement) was also detained. Eriberto told me that during those days the Chief of Section 21 of State Security in Havana assured him that my brother and I would soon be arrested. Sure enough, months later, on March 16, 2011, I was detained by the National Police while on the road from Guantanamo to Baracoa and then taken to a military barracks and later transferred to a State Security interrogation center located in the province where I was arrested for 3 days. While I was being confined to a prison cell, an ostentatious search with modern search techniques was being carried out in the home of my mother in Baracoa, under the direction of the MININT Delegate, the maximum representative of that organization in the province. The objective was to confiscate a satellite antenna system that provided internet connection access which had been lying somewhere in my mother’s house for months, and which I had never got around to using because it was missing pieces, along with the fact that I did not know how to operate it. And because of that device they wanted to accuse me of espionage and other strings of “legal” violations which the police resort to when they want to involve someone in some sort of scandal.

I was released under the condition that the investigations against me would continue, would be processed, and that one day I would be sent back to prison. At that moment I did not understand the condition but as time passed it made sense. It was all a scheme designed to make me leave my country, something that I refuse to do.

During those days my imprisoned and isolated brother awaited his departure from the country along with his family and they allowed me one visit. He informed me that the police and the G2 were pressuring him to convince me to join the group of relatives headed for exile in Spain. My brother informed me that the political police had assured him that I was going to spend long years in prison if I did not leave the country.

In that family visit, which took place in Havana before Nestor’s exile, all the relatives who would also leave for Spain were pressured as well to convince me to hop on that “flight” with the rest of them. The words used by the uniformed officials were “we’ll turn him into dirt”.

But I committed the “sin” of refusing the offer. I believe a few rebels should stay here and make the lives of those who run the totalitarian system impossible.

Because I have chosen not to leave the country and because the regime apparently has a muzzle on in regards to prison terms for dissidents, logic indicates that the path they will most likely take is that of trying to morally, psychologically, and physically destroy me, as they have done with the country, lives, and hopes of all Cubans. I am convinced that I am not the only one.

They resort to any possible method to implement this. They create “dissidents” who attack or question me in order to win a “white card” which would allow them to leave the country and they send delinquents in an attempt to start a complicated situation with me so that they could find a reason which would justify what the political police need in order to imprison me. In recent days I have received harassing calls, reproachful messages, threats of physical aggression and other, no less alarming, suspicious messages having to do with the opposition. It’s as if they want to return to the era of violence in the universities during the decade of the 40′s of the past century.

At this point in all the provocations, I know that I am confronting an enemy which is capable of making ashes out of anyone. I know that the regime is not on good terms at all with the people and if they seek to do away with the political scene of the island then they should know that this will not occur with me. I suppose that they included various criminals in the list of political prisoners deported to Spain in order to tarnish our images, the images of those political prisoners, the reasons for which the Cuban people fight for, and the civil movement which has been going on for more than 20 years before the eyes of national and international opinion. Or perhaps those other people in my country who, when it comes to the opposition, lend themselves to collaborate with the oppressive forces in order to receive gifts of white cards or exit permits from the country, all the while becoming loyal to the slogan “when the river overflows then there are earnings for the fishermen”.

It’s not the first time they resort to campaigns which degrade our images in an attempt to exasperate the legal bases of our cause, whether it be accusations of improper handling of funds which are aimed at assisting pro-democracy programs on the island or some other bad-intentioned ruse. I denounce ETECSA (Cuban telecommunications company), which is a business run by no other than Ramiro Valdes, Castro’s strongman, when it comes to controlling communication and internet in Cuba. He is also an accomplice of stealing 5 cellphones from my home, which was part of a political police operation against me, seizing my belongings to study them in a criminal forensic lab.

I have always said that we Cubans, those of us in or outside of the island, will fix our country. But we must start right now. That is why we must find how to make our struggle more effective without shifting our attention from the pillars which move society, maybe even the refugee program should be an option so it won’t serve as a trampoline for the heartless, with all due respect for all those who are politically persecuted. I will never forget that I am one of them.

Now, more than ever, is a decisive point for the future of Cuba, and it will not be through paternalism or dietetic romanticism that we will achieve freedom for our country. It is clear that the regime is trying all in its power to diminish the street confrontations between the opposition and the oppressive forces. But it will not be successful in its attempt to stop my activism because I have a responsibility with my people.

I must remind my enemies that the freedom cause in the island has its foundations in all the fecund deaths which sowed the seeds which would pass on to future generations, based on the morals of Varela, Marti, Jose Antonio Echeverria, Boitel, Zapata, and Soto. And continued by so many like Farinas, Antunez, Liranza, Sara Marta, Caridad Caballero, Marta Diaz Rondon, and many others out of a list of names (of humble people) impossible for me to mention in this small piece of civic resistance called “the digital world”.

Let me be clear: If something happens to me, only the Cuban government is responsible. For those who are analyzing the direction of the measures which favor them, it’s time to step aside. It is crucial that we all help to create awareness about the importance of the struggle for democracy on the island.

Translated by Raul G.

22 June 2011